Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Mass. High Court Says Foster Parenting Can Be Denied Over Religious Belief In Corporal Punishment

In Magazu v. Department of Children and Families, (MA Sup. Jud. Ct., Jan. 4, 2016), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a decision by a state agency denying an application by a Christian couple to become foster and pre-adoptive parents because the couple uses corporal punishment as a form of discipline in their home.  State rules, particularly concerned with the emotional needs of abused and neglected children who often are placed in foster care, bar the use of corporal punishment by foster parents.  The couple agreed that they would not use corporal punishment on a foster child, but refused to agree to refrain from spanking their own daughters in private when appropriate. According to the Court:
The Magazus assert that, in accordance with their sincerely held Christian beliefs, they use appropriate corporal punishment on their own two daughters as a matter of loving parenting and biblical understanding. They contend that the department's denial of their application to become foster parents substantially burdens their right to the free exercise of religion under art. 46, § 1, of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution.... 
The Court disagreed, saying in part:
although the department's decision imposes a substantial burden on the Magazus' sincerely held religious beliefs, this burden is outweighed by the department's compelling interest in protecting the physical and emotional well-being of foster children.
(See prior related posting.)